Just before a huge win by the Edmonton Oilers in Toronto against the Maple Leafs, general manager Ken Holland might have tipped the hand of the Oilers’ organization. The victory on Monday only likely reinforced his comments.
Holland was part of a radio interview on The Fan 590 earlier Monday and spoke of the team’s window to make the playoffs and compete. Despite saying earlier in the season he’d like his new team to simply challenge for a playoff spot, Holland’s mentality has changed just a touch considering where the Oilers are at in the standings after just over half of the season gone.
Holland said, “When you’ve got Connor McDavid the window is now, the time is now.”
That the time is now the same thing most Edmonton Oilers fans have been contending for years. There has to be excitement among Oilers Nation as the man in charge has finally said it out loud.
Young Talent Is Good, But It’s Not Enough
Holland added that it’s not enough to simply surround the best players with young talent, you need to add experience to that talent. He used someone like Kailer Yamamoto as an example, saying he’s been great at every level, but it isn’t fair to ask him to come up and play 10 minutes on the fourth line. He’s never had to do that over the course of his hockey career and to do so during the playoffs wouldn’t make sense.
“I look at Yamamoto,” Holland started. Saying he might have been ready, Edmonton sent him down to the AHL again for extra time and “He came back up here and Dave Tippett has been using him 15, 16 minutes a night. We’ll watch to see if that continues as we go forward.” And, should Yamamoto not be ready (he scored again Monday night, by the way), the Oilers have and will put themselves in a good position to compete in a league that isn’t about development.
Using his time in Detroit as an example, Holland said he brought in names like Slava Fetisov and an older Igor Larionov. In today’s NHL, the ages have dropped a good six-to-seven years but the philosophy hasn’t changed. “…it’s not a league where we put in young players because we’ve drafted them high and we believe they’re going to be good. If they’re not ready for it, it’s a struggle,” Holland explained. He then reiterated he added many of those experience, more veteran players during this past off-season. He called them “pros.”
What else he plans to do should be fun to watch from a fan’s perspective.
Do the Oilers Have the Right Combination?
Holland thinks, with the current record, the pieces they’ve added and two of the best in the game, Edmonton is right there.
“When you’ve got Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and we’ve got some other players, obviously Nurse and Nugent-Hopkins, I believe the window to try to be in the playoffs is now. We’re in the race,” he said.
Holland didn’t say he was veering away from his long-term game plan of being deeper and stronger and competitive every year. That includes building to be really good in two or three seasons. But, along with that, “You just have to get in, and then it’s a brand new season.”
What Does All This Mean?
Oilers fans probably shouldn’t assume Holland will mortgage the future to get into the post season this year. After all, he wouldn’t give up a first-rounder for Taylor Hall and if you won’t do that, logic suggests the Oilers won’t give up a first-rounder at all. That said, he’s not prepared to rely on young talent and prospects that aren’t ready.
And, while early call-ups include Yamamoto, likely in preparation to have him ready for the playoffs should Edmonton get there, Holland seems ready to ensure he’s got the right pieces surrounding what he believes to be the most talented player he’s ever managed.
Expect the Oilers to make a few moves and expect those moves to start sooner than later.
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